In 1959, phone booth cramming became a thing. It hit America after 25 South African students managed to stuff themselves into one earlier in the year. Today’s college students would be mystified. Not just at the idea of trying to squeeze a couple of dozen people into a too-small space without dying — but at the concept of “phone booth.”
No worry. While modern collegians would be highly challenged finding such a compartmentalized space for squeezing into, there are very similar 1950s trends they could chase. They could try stuffing themselves by the dozens into a car or a train car or a photo booth or…well, just about anything that shouldn’t hold an entire sorority will do.
As an author of 50’s popular nostalgic books, I get a special kick out of this innocent era and the goofy practice of phone booth cramming or stuffing. When you think about it. It’s probably no odder than young people’s current obsession for selfies or their brief affair with Pokemon Go. (Is that still going on?)
Just like trends for streaking, escape rooms or pet rock parenting, the late-fifties “thing” for cramming people into small objects didn’t last long. It was pretty much over by the time the calendar turned on the decade.
Sure, it was silly…and probably even dangerous, though I haven’t heard of anyone getting seriously hurt. I’m sure it wasn’t a popular pursuit for the claustrophobic. It also strikes me that this must have been one of the few “sports” (besides horse racing) that welcomed small and lightweight young men. You could fit more of them into a phone booth. Or an outhouse. Yes, that was another cramming destination.
Outhouse? Ask your great-grandparents.
If you think I’m making this whole thing up, I have photographic evidence that it really was a thing. Life magazine was a big fan of the practice. Check it out.
If you would like to introduce this wonderful decade to your children, may I recommend my series of 50s nostalgic books? I’m C.A. Hartnell, and you’ll find my 1950s seasonal adventures of Pete and Carol Ann here. I think that my books Scary Spring, Sinister Summer, Ferocious Fall, and Wild Winter would provide a rollicking introduction to the decade for middle-grade readers. I haven’t written about phone booth stuffing…yet…but there’s always time.
Take a look! And welcome to my favorite decade.